New York Film Festival Review “Exhibition”

Exhibition1Starring: Viv Albertine, Liam Gillick, Tom Hiddleston, Mary Roscoe
Directed By: Joanna Hogg
New York FIlm Festival
Running Time: 110 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Set in London, “Exhibition” focuses on a middle-aged married couple, known only in the film as D (Albertine) and H (Gillick). Both artists living a spectacular modernist house, itself built by an artist, we join them at the critical moment of their decision to sell the place. D is hesitant to make the move from a home that has defined their lives for nearly two decades.

It’s surprising to learn that the two leads of the film were themselves not actors. Albertine, the guitarist for band The Slits and Gillick, who is actually a conceptual artist himself, have an amazing chemistry as a long married couple. Though much of the film finds them in a state of disconnect–they communicate with each other through a very clinical intercom system in the house–we get these small moments of levity that make their relationship feel very lived in despite their tensions. You feel a sort of united front the couple present when they are engaging with painfully chatty outsiders like their neighbor going on and on about her children or the constantly upbeat realtor attempting to reassure D they’ll find good buyers (Hogg’s former film alums Mary Roscoe and Tom Hiddleston, respectively). Albertine has most of the screentime and she goes a long way in selling her attachment to both her home and her husband through her heartfelt pleas for H not to go wandering the city at night and later her running outside to confirm the ambulance down the block has nothing to do with H. Her anxiety about a prior ‘incident’ she doesn’t wish to repeat is never fully explained in the film but the desperation you sense when D alludes to it is enough to explain her unease.

I was fortunate to see this film, Hogg’s third feature, as part of a series showcasing all her work at this week’s New York Film Festival. Her first two features, Unrelated and Archipelago, established Hogg’s tremendous control over and emphasis on setting. Though Unrelated and Archipelago took place on family holidays and Exhibition is confined to the house, the sense of place feels like an additional character in her stories. Aesthetically beautiful as they are, they can also turn alienating at a moment’s notice. “Exhibition” takes this a step further through Jovan Ajder’s amazing sound design that morphs the home from a shelter from the sirens outside, to an oversize cavern with all it’s metallic creaking and huge sliding doors that dwarf D when she is on her own. Though D professes to a friend over Skype to be able to feel the love of the previous owners of the house in the walls, the audience may need some convincing. Hogg’s sound design coupled with her meticulous visuals bring us into the growing anxiety that D feels.

“Exhibition” is screening as part of the 51st New York Film Festival taking place through October 12th in Lincoln Center. For more information on it’s remaining screening, visit FilmLinc.com

 

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